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James L. Youngblood v. Michael J. Astrue

February 28, 2012

JAMES L. YOUNGBLOOD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Monte C. Richardson United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER*fn1

This cause is before the Court on Plaintiff's appeal of an administrative decision denying his application for Social Security benefits. The Court has reviewed the record, the briefs, and the applicable law. For the reasons set forth herein, the Commissioner's decision is REVERSED and REMANDED.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed applications for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits ("DIB"), and Supplemental Security Income on May 10, 2006. In the applications, Plaintiff alleged disability starting May 1, 2006. Plaintiff later amended his date of disability to April 13, 2009. The Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied these applications initially on October 5, 2006 and upon again reconsideration on December 14, 2006. Plaintiff then submitted a written request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on July 10, 2007. The hearing was conducted on April 13, 2010. On May 7, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled. Because the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, the ALJ's May 7, 2010 decision was the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff timely filed his Complaint in this Court on February 14, 2011. (Doc. 1).

II. NATURE OF DISABILITY CLAIM

A. Basis of Claimed Disability

Plaintiff claimed to be disabled since April 13, 2009, due to a back injury, knee pain, and hypertension. (Tr. 34, 40, 316, 366).

B. Summary of Evidence Before the ALJ

Plaintiff was fifty-one years of age on the date of his hearing before the ALJ. (Tr. 35). Plaintiff had past relevant work as a stacker, hand packager, and house repairer, and had completed school through the eleventh grade. (Tr. 37, 53).

On September 22, 2006, Plaintiff met with a consultative doctor, Dr. Timothy J. McCormick. During the examination, Plaintiff reported a back injury in 1999 and continued lower back pain. Dr. McCormick reported Plaintiff had full range of motion, full strength throughout, and his gait was normal. The only abnormality was Plaintiff's elevated blood pressure at 210/110. (Tr. 316-319).

The record also contains two medical consultant reports: one dated September 2006, completed by Donald Morford, M.D., and one dated October 2006, completed by Eric Puestow, M.D. (Tr. 324-341). Both reports noted some exertional limitations. Id.

On February 25, 2010, Plaintiff saw Dr. Lily S. Rocha. Plaintiff complained of low back and knee pain. (Tr. 365). Plaintiff's grip and fine dexterity was 5/5 and equal bilaterally. (Tr. 366). Plaintiff's straight leg raises were "possible to 40 degrees bilaterally seated and to just ten degrees bilaterally supine and limited due to back pain." Id. Plaintiff's pulses and reflexes were 5/5 and equal bilaterally in the upper and lower extremities. Plaintiff was able to walk 30 feet without the use of an assistive device, however, Plaintiff limped when walking. Id. Plaintiff's range of motion of the lumbar spine was within normal limits, although there was significant paravertebral muscle spasm noted along the entire lumbar spine. Id. X-rays indicated bilateral cartilage degeneration and a narrowing of the joint spaces in the knees with some arthritic changes on the tibial plateaus. Id.

Dr. Rocha noted no emotional factors that would contribute to the severity of Plaintiff's symptoms or functional limitations. (Tr. 368). Dr. Rocha found Plaintiff's pain interfered with the attention and concentration needed to perform even simple work tasks and that Plaintiff was not able to tolerate even low stress jobs. Id. Dr. Rocha indicated in her report that during an eight-hour workday, Plaintiff could sit for four hours and walk/stand for four hours, but needed to change positions after twenty minutes. (Tr. 368-369). Dr. Rocha also noted Plaintiff could lift twenty pounds rarely, and ten pounds occasionally, but Plaintiff could never crouch/squat and could rarely ...


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